Malta On the Road to Passing Civil Unions Bill
October 25, 2013 by Guest contributor
Post submitted by Karim, HRC Global Engagement Intern
The island nation of Malta may be the next country to legalize same-sex civil unions. The Civil Unions Bill was presented by the Labour government last week and went through a second review last night. The Maltese Christian Democrat Nationalist Party has also backed the legislation.
According to Cyrus Engerer, who leads the LGBT Consultative Council, the proposed civil rights law is based on a Danish law that was enacted in the 1980s. “It is a very short, succinct law that says all rights pertaining to a married heterosexual couple apply to gay partners who join in a civil union,” he said to the Times of Malta.
The Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM), an organization founded in June of 2001 that strives to achieve full equality for LGBT individuals in Maltese society, supports the bill and says that it is an important step towards same-sex marriage in Malta.
Though the bill may take several months before it is enacted into law, the agreement of both political parties strongly suggests that civil unions will soon become a reality in Malta.
Despite the fact that there is widespread support for the Civil Unions Bill, many individuals in the LGBT community, as well as some politicians, have criticized the government for introducing civil unions rather than amending the marriage law to include same-sex marriage. Nationalist MP Claudette Buttigieg was especially critical. “Who is the government trying to fool? The truth is that it has no courage to call this a marriage," she said of the civil unions bill, which will amend the Civil Code to give same-sex and opposite-sex couples not contracted by the marriage rite, the same rights and obligations, as well as the legal recourse to dissolve their union,” Buttigieg told Malta Today.
As a former British colony, Malta adopted the penal code from Great Britain, which criminalized same-sex conduct between men. Even though same-sex conduct was decriminalized in 1973, Malta was ranked the seventh worst country in the European Union for discrimination based on sexual orientation and the eighth for gay workplace discrimination, according to an EU-wide index published by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (ILGA).